Clinton: In Egypt, "Words Alone" Are Not Enough

Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Jan. 30, 2011.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for peace in Egypt on Sunday, and echoed recent U.S. appeals to Egyptian security forces to "show restraint" in the face of chaos and protests in Cairo.

"Let me repeat again what President Obama and I have been saying," Clinton said in an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "That is, to urge the Egyptian security forces to show restraint, to not respond in any way through violence or intimidation that falls upon the peaceful protestors who are demanding that their grievances were heard."

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets of Cairo and surrounding areas in recent days, decrying governmental corruption and demanding the ouster of Egyptian President Mubarak.

"What the people who are in the square and elsewhere in Egypt are protesting for is the right to participate in their government, to have economic opportunities for their human rights to be respected," Clinton added.

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Clinton emphasized that symbolic gestures of reform by Egyptian President Mubarak would be perceived as insufficient by the U.S. government.

"Words alone are not enough. There have to be actions," Clinton said. "There has to be a demonstrable commitment to the kind of reforms that we all know are needed and desired."

Clinton said she did not know why Egyptian warplanes had been flying over the demonstrators in Cairo's center square, but urged the military to act with caution.

"Our reports up until now have been that the Egyptian army had taken up positions, that they were showing such restraint," she told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "We strongly urge that that continue."

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Clinton reiterated that the Obama administration had reached out to Egyptian President Mubarak and urged him to "start a process of national dialogue that will lead to a transition to such democracy," but declined to speculate on what might happen if he were to resign - the solution for which tens of thousands of Egyptians are calling.

"What we are focused on now is a transition that will meet the needs of the Egyptian people and that will truly establish democracy, not just for one election and then no more elections after that or not for radicals, extremists, violent elements to take over," she said.

In response to a question about the potential takeover of Egypt's main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, Clinton said she would not speculate about "who goes or who stays," but added that "obviously want to see people who are truly committed to democracy, not to imposing any ideology on Egyptians."

"I'm not, you know, prepared to comment on what kind of democratic process the Egyptian people can construct for themselves," Clinton said. "We would like to encourage that people who have been the voice of protests and been the voice of civil society be the ones at the table trying to design what would be an orderly transition to meet the democratic and economic needs of the people."

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Clinton said Mr. Mubarak's recent appointment of a vice president was a move the White House considered "absolutely imperative," if long overdue.

"It's something that American government representatives have been urging and requesting for 30 years," she said.

She called on Mubarak to take "tangible steps" toward Egyptian democracy.

"Let's begin to see some meetings with representatives of the government and representatives of civil society," Clinton said. "Let's begin to see some steps taken that will lead toward free, fair and credible elections in the future. Those will begin to put some substance behind the words and give the protesters who are trying to see a future for Egypt that is responsive to their needs a reality that they can hang on to."